Solidarity Expressed at Petersberg Dialogue for the Most Vulnerable
Below is Prime Minister and incoming COP23 President Frank Bainimarama’s main speech at the Petersberg Climate Dialogue in Berlin, delivered in the presence of the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Angela Merkel.
Bula vinaka and a very good morning to you all.
I want to begin by expressing the shock and horror that we all feel about the terrorist attack in Manchester last night. To target so many innocent young people attending a concert like this is a terrible crime. The thoughts and prayers of every Fijian are with the families of the victims and those who were injured. And I also want to extend a strong message of sympathy, solidarity and support to the British Government and the British people. Not only on behalf of Fiji but every person in this room.
Excellencies, we have come together for this important dialogue at a significant moment. We have come to expect uncertainty in geopolitics generally. But with the issue of climate change, we have a particular uncertainty – what we have been calling the elephant in the room. And that is the challenge that the new administration in the United States presents to the multilateral consensus on the need for climate action.
Yet in this light-filled room and around this circular table over the past two days, I have felt goodwill for Fiji’s Presidency of COP23 and our collective resolve to push on with the implementation of the Paris Agreement, come what may.
Whatever happens in the coming weeks, there is considerable power around this table to make a difference. To pursue decisive political action, which in turn, will accelerate the economic transformation that so many speakers at this Dialogue have articulated.
These powerful voices come from all over the planet and represent a reordering of the geopolitical relationships that have traditionally driven international institutions.
I also heard solidarity expressed in this room by the powerful for the most vulnerable – something that gives me great comfort as a representative of one of the most climate-vulnerable regions on earth.
We all know that this process works by consensus and consensus can be so easily broken. And I was also very encouraged to find strong signals of an emerging consensus on the key elements that we must deal with during our presidency. I give you all a solemn undertaking that Fiji will dedicate all its efforts to hold that consensus together.
Putting all this into action will require leadership at every level of government and throughout our societies. And at this point, I want to pay special tribute to the leader who created this Dialogue and has made climate change a political priority.
Chancellor Merkel, we all owe you a debt of gratitude for setting an example for every political leader around the world. But it goes beyond your own political boundaries here in Europe because you have also empowered me as the leader of a Small Island Developing State. By backing Fiji’s presidency in the way that you have, you have amplified my own voice as a representative of the interests of my people. And in a global context, that is a mark of true leadership and one for which all Fijians are grateful.
Excellencies, it has been a very productive two days, highlighting both the need for greater cooperation between the parties to this agreement and the possibilities of achieving it. I was naturally daunted when I took on this task but I now feel very encouraged. Because I can see for myself from the resolve in this room that, together, we will find solutions. The theme of this conference wasn’t just empty rhetoric. We can do this. So long as after the talking, we are all determined to act. In the real world, the material world, where ordinary people live.
The transformation we need to make must be accelerated. We must embrace speed as the only way to respond to the urgency of this crisis. And we must persuade the world that this is not a threat but an opportunity. The path to a more prosperous future.
My distinguished colleague from China said something yesterday that stuck very much in my mind. He said there is a revolution taking place in energy production and consumption. And that addressing climate change – in China’s experience – does not limit economic growth. A win-win result is possible. And who doesn’t like a winner. Fijians certainly do.
The point is that the rapid development of new technologies and converging technologies in clean energy, storage and electric vehicles – to pick just one example – are not only good for our climate but good for our economies, our peoples’ health and the quality of the air they breathe.
The challenge is to scale these technologies and make them available at an affordable price to people all over the world. We are learning that for people in both developed and developing countries, renewable energy is actually becoming cheaper than relying on fossil fuels. And we must continue to spread the benefits of this innovation in the kind of partnerships emerging in the climate action agenda.
Excellencies, we were very pleased to hear support for Fiji’s intention to provide a much stronger focus on oceans during our presidency. As I said yesterday, climate change and oceans are interconnected. And I appeal to you all to support the World Oceans Summit that Fiji is co-chairing with Sweden in New York next month.
I am also pleased to have received support for our effort to gain better access to adaptation finance and in particular, to more affordable insurance for climate-related disasters. This is already a major problem for Pacific Island nations and other vulnerable countries. And we must all work harder to protect the security of those living in areas of risk such as Fiji.
Within our own societies, we must also do more to build green economies, a path we have embarked on in Fiji, but which needs much more attention and resources. As a former navy man, I can tell you that we certainly need a solution to all the plastic that is polluting our oceans. And we are always open to ideas about how we can grow our own economy in a more sustainable manner.
Excellencies, I was struck by how many people in the room picked up on our idea of Talanoa and used it in their own speeches. Our German friends loved the concept when we first explained it to them. And now other nations as diverse as Switzerland, the Maldives, Singapore and Mexico, picked up the word Talanoa to explain the quality of the dialogue we now need.
We think we can actually apply this to design the process of the Facilitative Dialogue, the big talanoa that lies ahead at COP23 and beyond. And the principles that lie behind the concept – of respectful engagement – can be applied even in the most contentious settings.
Excellencies, as the 8th Petersberg Dialogue draws to a close, it falls to me to thank the German Government and German people on behalf of us all for their hospitality, friendship and wise counsel in this wonderful setting. Let us recommit ourselves as we leave here and return home to making this year a success.
I spoke yesterday of us all being in the same canoe together. And one of my other jobs between now and November is to find a canoe big enough and bring it to Bonn.
Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.